As if things weren't bad enough already out here, they are poised to get quite a bit worse:
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - As electronic highway billboards flashing neon advertisements become more prevalent, the next frontier in distracted driving is already approaching - ad-blaring license plates.
The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The move is intended as a moneymaker for a state facing a $19 billion deficit.
The device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.
In emergencies, the plates could be used to broadcast Amber Alerts or traffic information.
(for full AP story, click here)
Okay, so, this is obviously a horrible idea. Digital license plate ads will be exceedingly annoying, distracting, expensive, ripe for exploitation and theft, dangerous...
I understand California--and the nation as a whole, where this practice will no doubt soon spread--needs to raise money to cover all the horrific mistakes made over the years by the "Greatest" Generation and Baby Boomers (dipping into Social Security, fighting endless/meaningless wars, cutting income taxes to get elected, reducing taxes on the wealthy and corporations, awarding ridiculous no-bid contracts to campaign donors, etc.), but there are far better avenues for this fundraising than subjecting motorists to an onslaught of advertising while behind the wheel.
How about California raises money by taxing all properties at 2010 levels, instead of, in many cases, at a rate frozen in 1978 by Proposition 13. For those not in the know, Prop.13 rolled back property taxes to 1975 levels and created a maximum annual increase of only 2%, as median real estate values in the state climbed 900% from 1975-2004 alone).
I realize this will be an uphill battle, since old people are selfish and want young people to shoulder the financial burden they created (properties purchased after 1995 are exempt from this cushy tax dodge and taxed at the proper rate), but I hope it happens--not only for the revenue windfall it would provide for the state from those who have been dodging paying their due, but because it will most likely result in a fantastic side benefit:
All the people currently living in ridiculously-priced homes that cannot afford to pay the proper tax rate would be forced to sell their property and move into accommodations that suit their means. The glut in the marketplace of all those homes for sale would result in a dramatic decrease in home prices, which would make houses affordable to regular people who have jobs--as it once was, in 1978.
Granted, this would also reduce property values and, therefore, also reduce the expected haul of property taxes, but the state would still receive far more revenue than it is currently and, at the very least, the playing field would once again be leveled.
But something tells me we'll see Katherine Heigl's stupid face flashing on a million license plates before I'm ever able to afford a home in the city in which I live and work.